Moderna has not violated its contractual obligations with Canada, Procurement Minister Anita Anand says, despite continued setbacks over promised COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to this country.
“There has not been a breach of contract at this stage, and indeed, strong relationships with our suppliers [have] been fundamental to ensuring that we’ve accelerated 22 million doses already from one quarter to the next,” Anand said in an interview on Rosemary Barton Live.
The minister’s comments come as a shipment of 1.2 million Moderna doses bound for Canada this month has been scaled back and delayed.
The shots, which were set to arrive this week, have been slashed to 650,000 doses and will now arrive later in April or by early May. A further 12.3 million doses expected to arrive by the end of June will also shrink by one to two million shots and are now scheduled to show up between July and September.
The Massachusetts-based company is struggling to meet ramped-up global demand at its European facilities, partly due to labour shortages.
“Moderna continues to make substantial capital investments to support production increases … and explore other potential collaboration opportunities,” the company said in a statement on Friday.
Flexible contracts allow for accelerated deliveries
Both Moderna and Pfizer wrestled with production holdups earlier this year as the companies scaled up their capacity to handle increased demand — but Pfizer has maintained a consistent delivery schedule since then.
“Pfizer has been an incredibly stable partner in the bringing in of vaccines to this country,” Anand told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton.
“We continue to ask them for earlier and earlier doses, and they continue to ensure that we are able to do that.”
On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada signed an agreement with the pharmaceutical giant for eight million more doses of its mRNA vaccine.
The country is not paying a premium for the accelerated deliveries, Anand said.
“We are paying fair market value for these doses, and they are obliging our requests. We exercised options for those eight million doses, and we had built that flexibility into our contracts.”
The minister said the nature of Canada’s agreements with its suppliers means delivery schedules are not necessarily set in stone.
“The ability for Canada to bring in increasing numbers of doses goes back to the diversified portfolio of vaccines that we put in place back last August, and [we] made sure that we have flexibility here so that we can draw down on our contractual arrangements.”
Accessing U.S. supply
When asked at what point the United States might be able to open up access to its vaccine stocks, Anand said she’s not focused on that country’s supply chain.
“I’m not focused on the U.S. timeline as much as I am on ensuring we’re having those discussions right now, and that’s why we have been engaged with the U.S. administration since January,” she said.
So far, Canada has received 1.5 million AstraZeneca-Oxford doses on loan from its southern neighbour that will be returned later this year.
“We are in constant discussion with the United States and will continue to do that through our ambassador, Kirsten Hillman, and with her excellent help in order to have Canada as being well placed to continue to draw doses from multiple countries, not just the U.S.,” Anand said.
You can watch full episodes of Rosemary Barton Live on CBC Gem, the CBC’s streaming service.
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